It was billed as a press conference, but Carlos Ghosn’s long-awaited appearance before the world’s media also felt like a courtroom, with a Powerpoint presentation thrown in too.
But this courtroom, unlike the one he has avoided in Tokyo, gave the defendant free rein to explain why he’s innocent, M’Lud.
Ghosn spent an hour presenting his own case, and then fended off suggestions that his fugitive status implies guilt.
But what did we learn?
1) Ghosn blames a conspiracy between Nissan executives and forces within the Japanese government to bring him down. He named former CEO Hiroto Saikawa, whistleblower Hari Nada and board member Masakazu Toyoda, adding:
My unimaginable ordeal is the result of a handful of unscrupulous, vindictive individuals.
He refused to name which government officials are to blame, beyond appearing to absolve PM Shinzo Abe.
2) Japan’s judicial system is in the spotlight. Ghosn makes a fair point when he criticises the Japanese habit of forcing confessions out of those accused of crimes.
Pouring out his anguish, the former CEO said:
I was brutally taken from my work as I knew it, ripped from my work, my family and my friends.
It is impossible to express the depth of that deprivation and my profound appreciation to be able to be reunited with my family and loved ones.
(I was) interrogated for up eight hours a day without any lawyers present.
‘It will get worse for you if you don’t just confess’, the prosecutor told me repeatedly.
3) Ghosn claims he has proof that he’s innocent. Reporters were shown some documents which — apparently — explain away the $11m of dubious expense payments.
He also produced a letter approving the houses bought for the Ghosn family, signed by Saikawa.
Ghosn says he plans to prove his innocence.
I don’t consider myself as a prisoner in Lebanon. I prefer this prison to the one before.
I am ready to stay a long time in Lebanon, but I am going to fight because I have to clear my name.
4) He’s burned his bridges in Japan. Savaging the Tokyo prosecutor is one thing. But citing Pearl Harbor as an example of Japanese cunning and secrecy is to deploy the diplomatic skills of Basil Fawlty.
Ghosn’s point is that he didn’t spot how his one-time allies were plotting to boot him out, to break Renault’s control over Nissan – and scupper a planned merged with Fiat-Crysler. But still, it was a poor analogy that will distract from Ghosn’s claims of innocence.
5) He’s devoted to Mrs Ghosn. I think Ghosn was trying to be chivalrous when he joked that he missed his wife badly when he was trapped in Japan, even if others might not.
As he touchingly put it:
I’ve been in a kind of nightmare for 13 months.
It started when I saw the face of the prosecutor, and it ended when I saw the face of my wife.
This love is not unrequited — Carole has spoken about how her husband’s return was a “beautiful surprise”. They share something else too — charges in Japan. In her case, prosecutors claim she committed perjury last year.
6) Lebanon might not be as safe as he hoped. Fleeing to Beirut looked like a cunning plan, as there’s no extradition treaty with Japan. But there is a law banning travel to Israel, which Ghosn has broken in the past.
Beirut’s prosecutor wants to discuss this with Ghosn tomorrow, alongside the Red Notice issued by Interpol for his arrest.
7) Be honest, you were hoping to hear Ghosn confirm whether he was bundled out of Toyko in a big musical box. I certainly was. But on this point, he remained tight-lipped. Perhaps he’s saving it for the film version (although he denies that there’s a deal with Netflix).